If all we ever had as teachers was in-house professional development, our ability to keep learning and pushing ourselves would be limited by the choices made by our school administrators, who sometimes have different priorities than we do. The benefit of online communities created for and by teachers is that we can share our knowledge with others and get exposed to others’ ideas, too. The Schoolwide Network has the potential to be a very valuable example of such a tool, conceived around the use of video tutorials created by teachers around professional development.
The organizers of the site explain:
“Our hope for the Schoolwide Network is to create an online environment where quality reigns and mediocrity hides, giving both the adults and students who use our site a clear, well-lit path toward academic achievement.”
The videos mostly capture live professional development sessions as a video archive, but I noticed some interesting topics around writing instruction, starting up book clubs, featured authors, keynote speakers and more. The website allows users to search by topic or by grade level, and it monitors video content and submissions. As of the day I write this, there were close to 500 videos available for viewing, and more are being added each day. Teachers are encouraged to submit their own videos for review and possible inclusion on the site.
The nice thing about a site like Schoolwide Network is that I can choose when the learning about new ideas, or about new twists to old ideas, takes place. The use of a video interface also gives me the sense of being there in the room with other teachers. It may not replace face-to-face professional development and the interaction that takes place in that time, but this online resource has a lot of value in this age of interconnected, online professional learning communities.